On Tuesday, June 1, the Duval County School board of Jacksonville, Florida, voted in favor of renaming several of its public schools named after controversial historical figures — a move suggested earlier on by the county’s superintendent, News 4 Jax reported.
Of nine district schools in question, six have confederate ties, while three have connections to the marginalization of indigenous people. Following Tuesday night’s decision, Joseph Finegan Elementary School will be renamed Anchor Academy, and Stonewall Jacksonville Elementary School will become Hidden Oaks Elementary School.
Other name changes include J.E.B. Stuart Middle School to Westside Middle School, Kirby-Smith Middle School to Springfield Middle School, Jefferson Davis Middle School to Charger Academy, and Robert E. Lee High School will now be known as Riverside High School. The vote by the school board for all schools was 5-2. However, superintendent Dr. Diana Greene did not recommend name changes for three other schools — Jean Ribault middle and high schools and Andrew Jackson High School.
The change was a decision nearly 11 months in the making, and though it has garnered pushback from community members, it has also gained plenty of support — some financial — from outside sources. Nearly 60 people signed up for public comment to either support or oppose the move.
Wells Todd of Take’Em Down Jax told the Florida Times-Union, “Keeping the names of Confederate generals in our children’s schools is a slap in the face to every African American that attends these schools. Those that oppose the names being changed are acknowledging their support for the Confederacy and all that it stood for.”
Meanwhile, Deyona Burton, a black senior from Lee High School, spoke during the meeting, fulling dressed in her gown, cords, and medallion, asking that her class be the last graduating class from Lee. “My class has been through a lot… do not let all this pain be for nothing,” she pleaded. “We preserve history by creating a diverse curriculum and teaching history honestly. It’s been a long day and an even longer process. Make the appropriate changes across the board so we can all go home.”
In a statement from School Board chairwoman Elizabeth Andersen, she expressed, “As a board and a community, we’ve done really hard things. But we can get this done.” She added, “We know who we want to be as a school district.”
The news outlet reported that the changes would go into effect on Aug. 3 and would cost a little more than a million dollars to complete. Green said the estimated cost per school would be around $287,000 each for the middle schools and $32,000 each for the elementary schools, noting that the price difference lies in the fact that those schools don’t have team sports and extracurricular activities like secondary schools, which would increase the budget.
The media outlet reported that a portion of the funds needed for the name change would come from a mix of “general funding, private donations, capital funding, and internal account.” The Jacksonville Public Education Fund has already raised $70,000, and donations have already begun to pour in, including an anonymous donation of $50,000 made following the vote.
Greene also told News 4 Jax that Nike had announced plans to help with purchasing away uniforms for teams and the Jaguars, which indicated it plans to pay for all home athletic uniforms for the secondary schools,including Lee High, J.E.B. Stuart and Jeff Davis.